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History of Homeopathy in Australia: A Brief History of Homœopathy in Tasmania

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Barbara Armstrong presents a history of homeopathy in Tasmania, describing the resistance homeopaths met from the medical establishment.

For further details about the information listed below, plus the history of homœopathy in the rest of Australia see: www.historyofhomeopathy.com.au

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1830 – First mention of homœopathy

The first time homœopathy was mentioned in Tasmanian newspapers was in 1830, reprinted from an article which had appeared in the Edinburgh Review about this ‘new system of cure’.

In 1846, in the whole of Tasmania there were only 67 registered medical practitioners (18 in Hobart and 11 in Launceston), and 6 registered chemists (3 in Hobart and 3 in Launceston). No-one was recorded as prescribing or dispensing homœopathic medicines.

We will never know the name of the first person to bring homœopathy to Tasmania. It may have been any one of the many thousands of men and women who emigrated from ‘the old country’. In preparation for life in a pioneering country, where there would be little if any access to qualified medical practitioners, some of them would have brought with them their homœopathic medicine chests and instructions for their use in emergency situations.

 

1848 – First homœopathic pharmacy

By this time homœopathy was sufficiently well-known and used in the Hobart Town community that Mr Frederick C. Atkinson believed that he could succeed with a pharmacy specifically aimed at supporters and users of homœopathic treatment. He opened The Homœopathic Establishment in Macquarie Street, which, according to my research to-date, was Australia’s first specialist homœopathic pharmacy as advertised in newspapers of the time. Mr Atkinson also advertised that he provided consultations; therefore it would appear that he was Tasmania’s first known lay homœopath. However, the pharmacy was only advertised for about 6 months, and Mr. Atkinson disappeared from Tasmania’s public records.

 

1866 – Two homœopaths & one homœopathic chemist

This year saw the beginnings of a more stable and public presence of homœopathy, as well as the beginnings of a strong push-back by the conventional medical profession.

Dr Ebenezer Atherton, age 25, arrived in Hobart. He was the first known qualified homœopath and registered medical practitioner to practise full-time in Tasmania. As such, he did much to promote and defend homœopathy in the newspapers and later via the publication called Notes on Homœopathy. He remained in Tasmania until 1873 when he moved to New South Wales.

Andrew John Baden Jenner arrived in Tasmania, just one month after Dr Atherton. He had moved from Queensland, initially practising in Hobart, then Launceston, then Devonport. He became famous in Tasmania for giving lectures on homœopathy as well as other topics such as ‘fashion’. Nearly three hundred people attended his Launceston lecture on homœopathy, which was subsequently published in full as a pamphlet. This pamphlet and his lectures brought him to the attention of the medical profession. Jenner stated that he had qualifications from the University College of London, but he did not have formal medical qualifications which would make him eligible to become registered as a medical practitioner. Having received a diploma from an American college via mail, he applied for registration in Tasmania, but was refused. Twice more he was charged with having practised medicine without being registered and was fined. Perhaps realising that the local doctors would never permit him to establish a successful practice, he returned to England around 1870. Eventually he moved to America where his qualifications were accepted.

Edward Ash, an established chemist in Hobart, commenced advertising the sale of homœopathic medicines and books. His pharmacy became known as ‘Ash, Homœopathic Chemists’ and continued to operate through three generations of the Ash family, into the 1900s. His grandson, Percy, became a member of the Board and Trustee of the Hobart Homœopathic Hospital.

 

Early 1870s – More outlets for sales of homœopathics, and a new publication

Messrs Walch & Sons, stationers in Hobart, advertised regularly that they were importers of homœopathic medicines for the public. Andrew P. Miller, Hobart chemist, advertised that he had homœopathic medicines for sale.

The first monthly edition of Notes on Homœopathy was published in Hobart. Edited by supporter E.C. Nowell, with contributions from Dr Atherton, it ran for 12 editions.

In the Notes on Homœopathy a person from Devonport stated that there was ‘a good opening for a homœopathic medical practitioner in the neighborhood as they have no medical man within 40 miles’. Presumably referring to A.J.B. Jenner, the writer stated that their homœopathic medical practitioner had been ‘driven away by persecution, but not before he had relieved many persons who had been deemed incurable’. ‘I may also add that a great many of the residents are practical homœopaths in their families.’

 

1873 – New homœopath in Hobart

Dr Harry Benjafield, age 28, arrived in Hobart and took over Dr Atherton’s popular practice. He was to have a significant influence on the spread of homœopathy throughout Tasmania. He also produced the smallpox vaccine from calf lymph node, which he exported throughout Australia.

 

1878 – New homœopathic pharmacy in Hobart & a new publication

There has been some confusion about the background history to what eventually became known as Gould’s Homœopathic Pharmacy. My extensive examination of contemporary reports reveals that the instigator and owner of the business was Dr Benjafield as an extension to his medical practice which he conducted on the same premises. He hired managers to run the day-to-day activities of the Pharmacy.

Shortly after it opened, The Homœopathic Pharmacy produced and published a booklet: “What is Homœopathy? with simple directions for the treatment of common complaints; by an M.B.” It was provided free-of-charge upon request.

H.T. Gould became the manager and the dispensing chemist of The Homœopathic Pharmacy after his arrival in Hobart in 1880, two years after the Pharmacy was established.

 

1870 – 1880 – Launceston outlets for sale of homœopathic medicines

While most commercial activities to date had focused on Hobart to the south, attention also started to concentrate on providing homœopathic medicines to the north, in Launceston. Two existing pharmacies started advertising the sale of homœopathic medicines.

 

1882 – Petition to establish a homœopathic ward in the Hobart General Hospital

Dr Benjafield, Mr Gould and others agitated to obtain a homœopathic ward in Hobart’s General Hospital. The issue was raised at the hospital board meeting, but the proposal was rejected as being unworkable.

 

1883 – Two new homœopathic pharmacies; a new homœopath in Launceston; a new publication

There has been some confusion about the background history of The Homœopathic Pharmacy in Launceston, which later became known as F.S. Browne’s Homœopathic Pharmacy. Credit for the formation of the Pharmacy is usually given to F. Styant Browne. However, my extensive examination of contemporary reports reveals that the instigator and owner of the business was Dr Benjafield, as a branch of The Homœopathic Pharmacy in Hobart. Mr Styant Browne, who had arrived in Tasmania in 1882, was hired as the manager to run the day-to-day activities of the Pharmacy. Mr Styant Browne purchased the Pharmacy in 1885.

As part of the opening of the Pharmacy, it was announced that a new homœopathic doctor, Dr Samuel Brown, had arrived in Launceston. Dr Brown provided consultations from the premises, which he continued to do until he left Tasmania and moved to Queensland in 1885. The following year he was replaced by Dr William Matthew Gutteridge.

A small brochure called “The Medical Telephone” was produced by the Hobart Homœopathic Pharmacy. It contained directions for the treatment of common diseases, wounds, fractures, and directions and recommendations for the use of homœopathic medicines. It was distributed via both the Hobart and Launceston pharmacies. Later, in 1895, Gould’s Pharmacy advertised that the brochure was available free-of-charge and that upward of 20,000 copies had already been circulated since it was first produced.

 

1897 – Battle for a hospital presence in Launceston; Northern Homœopathic League formed; homœopathics available on the West Coast

In May 1897 the women of Launceston announced that they wanted to establish a women’s hospital as a memorial to Queen Victoria. Supporters of homœopathy (among others) worked hard, subscribing liberally to the project.

Dr Gutteridge, the only qualified homœopath in Launceston, was asked to act as one of the honorary medical officers on the staff of the hospital. However, the other honorary medical officers, who were allopaths, objected to his appointment; they formed a Launceston sub-branch of the British Medical Association. The allopathic staff of the hospital stated that it would be impossible for them to work with Dr Gutteridge as their rules prevented them from consulting with a homœopath. Intended as a threat to the hospital committee to force them to sack Dr Gutteridge, this caused a furore throughout the north of Tasmania, and especially those subscribers who had believed that they would be able to receive homœopathic treatment at the hospital. In the end, the committee (without the support of their subscribers) rescinded the resolution to establish a homœopathic ward at the hospital, also withdrawing their offer of a medical position to Dr Gutteridge.

As a direct result of the above actions, on October 21, 1897, a meeting of supporters of homœopathy was held in Launceston, where they decided to form the Northern Tasmanian Homœopathic League. The meeting also proposed establishing a homœopathic hospital as soon as possible.

About the author

Barbara Armstrong

Barbara Armstrong has qualifications in Medical Record Administration; a Graduate Diploma in Data Processing; and a Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Sciences. She has worked in the health field for more than 26 years. Having always been interested in history, originally specialising in medieval maps, over the past 10 years she has become a specialist in the history of homœopathy in Australia. She has created a website which is the definitive source for information about Australia's pioneering homœopaths, chemists, and public figures who were supporters of homœopathy, as well as information about Australia's homœopathic hospitals and dispensaries.

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1 Comment

  • Congratulations Barbara.

    A comprehensive timeline, detailing previously unknown facts about the history of homoeopathy in Tasmania … well done !

    Furthermore, accessing Barbara’s website reveals a treasury of information about the early history of homoeopathy throughout Australia, with results of ongoing original research being constantly added.

    Best wishes,
    Peter Torokfalvy
    BSc,GradDipDP,DipHom